What Are Telephoto Lenses Used For? (Importance Of Telephoto Lenses)

Whether you are a new or a professional photographer, you need to be familiar with different lenses. One of the most popular lens types is called a telephoto. Some telephoto lenses have zoom, and others do not. But what are telephoto lenses used for? We want to answer this question in depth.

If you plan to do professional sports or wildlife photography, telephoto lenses are the best. A telephoto is any lens that has a long focal length.

“Telephoto lenses allow the photographer to capture a clear shot of a distant object without getting closer.”

What is a Telephoto Zoom Lens?

A telephoto lens can have a variable focal length to compose and adjust the subject. Such a lens is known as a telephoto zoom.

Usually, when buying camera lenses, you can find a telephoto zoom lens, a telephoto lens without zoom, or a lens that is neither telephoto nor a zoom.

In short, a telephoto lens that can magnify beyond 50mm is a telephoto zoom.

What are Telephoto Lenses Used For?

Telephoto lenses have a long focal length and a narrow field of view. Their angle of view ranges between thirty degrees and one degree. Telephoto lenses are safety devices, and we will explain how below. They have three sub-categories:

Short Telephotos:

They have a focal length of 85mm to 135mm. Perfect for event; portrait, and product photography; telephoto lenses provide more background separation. Thus, you do not have to shoot a subject while too far away from it.

Medium Telephotos:

Any lens with a focal length of between 135mm and 300mm is a medium telephoto. Due to their longer focal length, they work better than short telephotos.

Super Telephotos:

They have a focal length of more than 300mm. Super telephoto lenses offer greater focal length and the narrowest field of view (eight degrees to one degree).

As a result, they are the most expensive devices for shooting football, a night sky, or wild animals. Super telephoto lenses are big and heavy. So, they become more stable when using a tripod.

Various Uses of  Telephoto Lenses

01. Pull Distant Subjects Near

Telephoto lenses have the effect of reducing the gap between two objects that are quite a distance apart. If you have a super-telephoto lens, you can see how magnified this effect can be.

Capturing your main subject with a mountain or a tall building behind them can produce a catchier photo. With a telephoto, which is an achievable endeavor.

02. Exclude a Dull Background

If you want to shoot high-quality photos, you can isolate boring and exciting backgrounds or foregrounds. For instance, you might want to shoot a blue sky and avoid a grey and cloudy one.

In such a situation, you need a telephoto lens to help you separate dull objects from interesting ones. Once you put them to focus, you can pull them closer to the subject and produce a perfect picture.

Using a typical lens with a short focal length can make you miss some nice distant things. With its longer reach, a telephoto can let you isolate and capture these subjects.

03. Wildlife Photography

Do you like what you see in National Geographic videos? NG photographers use telephoto lenses to produce excellent shots of shy and dangerous wild animals.

They do not need to get closer to big cats, snakes, and elephants. Telephoto lenses ensure the photographer’s safety and enable them to shoot images worth showing on national televisions.

Some wild animals are not dangerous but overly shy and fearful. Capturing these animals can be difficult without a telephoto lens.

04. Night Sky Photography

All of us love the clear night sky as it is gorgeous. In particular, the moon is so fascinating that scientists had to find a way to land there.

For ordinary people who will never go to the moon, they can try shooting photos of the night sky.

While you can still use any camera lens, a telephoto lens’ long focal length can produce a better-quality shot.

A telephoto lens can give you professional-quality pictures if you use a tripod to minimize camera shaking.

Take night sky photos with your super-telephoto lens when you have adequate time and only if the weather is clear.

05. Portrait Photography

With a telephoto lens, you can take a head and shoulder or a head-only portrait without standing near the subject. Standing a distance away from your subject can help them relax to let you capture their most natural-looking image.

Moreover, telephotos reduce distortion and put the whole focus on your subject. But, if you wish to hold the oversized lens in your hand, the camera shakes might spoil the portrait.

So, ensure you control the shutter speed to take outstanding portrait photos.

06. Narrow Depth of Field

Even if you want to capture a few things surrounding the subject, you may not when using a lens with a wide depth of field.

A telephoto is a viable choice because it offers a shallow depth of field. Thus, you can remove distracting background or foreground items to avoid ruining image viewing.

07. Capture a Fast-Paced Live Event

Most sports include fast action. So, a photographer cannot get inside the field to shoot the players live. A telephoto lens is the most appropriate way to capture a live sports event.

First, the photographer can draw the subjects near without moving closer. Still, they need to pick the shutter speeds and lighting conditions wisely.

How quickly the subjects are moving is a vital consideration when capturing fast-paced live events.

Telephoto lens Vs. Zoom lens

Before discussing the differences between zoom and telephoto, we will define zoom lenses. We have already defined telephoto lenses.

What is a zoom lens?

A zoom is any lens that offers variable focal lengths. Most modern cameras include zoom as an essential feature.

Now that you know what a zoom lens is, we will discuss how it differs from a telephoto lens. Differences between telephoto and zoom lenses include the following:

Focal length:

Zoom lenses have a variable focal length- 75mm to 300mm. Conversely, telephoto lenses offer a fixed focal length. Thus, zoom lenses are ideal for dynamic photography, while telephotos are ideal for more static, high-end photography.


A zoom lens reduces the number of lenses necessary for photography. In contrast, a telephoto lens minimizes just the lens size.


With a zoom lens, you can vary the distances of your subjects without changing lenses as they have an APS crop sensor.

They are more versatile but not ideal for shooting subjects in dangerous environments or fast-paced live events.

Telephotos do better in these circumstances because they strictly shoot distant objects. Telephoto lenses have a long fixed focal length, making them less versatile.


 Zoom lenses fit general or landscape photography. On the other hand, telephoto lenses are fit for shooting nature, including wildlife and the night sky. Also, they are ideal for fast-paced sports events. 


Beginners should buy zoom lenses because they are cheaper and flexible. On the other hand, telephoto lenses are expensive for starters and require strong photography skills.

Image quality:

A telephoto lens has a constant focal length. So, you can work faster and still produce clear, crispier, and more spectacular images.

Results are even better because you can use a telephoto lens as a wide-angle lens. Zoom lenses still create adorable images but with lower quality than telephone lenses.

Besides, regular focal length switching can affect your working speed. Although a zoom lens can be a telephoto lens, the latter cannot be the former.

Which is Better a Zoom Lens or a Telephoto Lens?

Each lens type is unique and ideal for certain photography situations. Depending on where you are in your photography journey, you might find one of these more helpful.

For instance, a beginner should never choose a telephoto lens because it is costlier and harder to use.

In their case, a zoom lens makes a better choice. On the other hand, a telephoto lens is ideal for a professional photographer who shoots live events or nature.

Besides, if you are an expert photographer, you can select a telephoto zoom lens to get the best of both worlds.

We can say that none is better than the other because these lenses work differently. If looking to vary your focal lengths, a zoom lens is an excellent choice.

On the other hand, a telephoto is ideal if your photography calls for long focal lengths.

What Does a Telephoto Zoom Lens Do?

Use a telephoto zoom lens when you wish to fill the frame with a subject that is distant from you. A telephoto zoom lens can work well in street or wildlife photography as you cannot disturb the subject.

A telephoto zoom lens comes with a wide maximum aperture. As a result, it costs much more money than a typical zoom lens. Also, these lenses have a lower f-number.

So, they shoot sharper images. When using telephoto zoom lenses, you must control the fast shutter speeds and the shaking.

Cheaper items have variable apertures ranging between 70 and 300mm and offer f/4-5.6. Options with a fixed aperture of f/2.8 or f/5.6 are costlier and can get as wide as their focal lengths can allow.

How Do I Choose a Telephoto Zoom Lens?

Selecting a high-quality telephoto zoom lens is easy if you know the parameters to consider. These include the following:

Picture quality:

If you earn a living through photography, you must aim for the best picture quality. And if that is the case, you must focus more on the lens quality. More expensive zoom lenses produce sharper images than the cheaper ones.


How much can you spend on a lens? If you know your budget size, selecting an appropriate lens should be easy.

With less money, you are only going to buy lenses with a smaller aperture, slower motors, and poorer image quality.

But if you have good cash, you can find a higher-quality zoom lens for your photography hassle. For instance, a Nikon 200mm to 500mm lens is pricy but perfect.


If you prefer to be a more flexible photographer, choose a zoom lens that can offer that. All zoom lenses have variable focal lengths, but some have substandard quality.

Read product reviews to discover a lens’ motor speed, performance when shooting fast-moving objects, hood quality, maintenance ease, etc. Canon Zoom lenses with greater flexibility are cheaper than similar Nikon lenses.

Shooting Situations:

Depending on your photography adventures and shooting styles, you might need more than a zoom lens. In such a case, a prime telephoto lens makes more sense. 

Super telephotos are heavier, costlier, and can offer a long focal length of 500 to 800mm. So, most people choose short and medium prime telephotos with 300mm or 400mm.

Is the Telephoto Lens on iPhone Worth it?

Yes, it is worth it if you cannot afford an expensive Nikon or Canon camera. Besides, if you want to take pictures privately, an iPhone with a telephoto lens can let you.

As we said earlier, a telephoto lens has a long focal length and can let you shoot a subject from a distance.

What that means is that you can shoot the subject and they might not notice it. Common applications are street photos and portrait images.

How to Use a Telephoto Zoom Lens?

Here are TIPS for you:

  • Do not fill the main frame with the main subject to avoid setting the lowest aperture f-number
  • Use a low aperture f-number when looking to shoot a distant subject, such as a moving plane. Doing so will let you produce a sharper image because of the faster shooting speed.
  • Set the focus limit switch to 6.5meters so that the camera can only shoot anything at or closer than that.
  • Always increase the aperture setting the closer you get to the subject.

 Frequently Asked Questions[FAQs]

What do I need to know about telephoto lenses and sensors? 

If you change the sensor size in a full-frame camera, the lens’ angle of view will shift as well. With an APS crop sensor, for instance, your telephoto lens can appear to pull distant subjects even closer.

A small sensor will crop the image and cause distant objects to appear nearer. A crop sensor camera can reach longer focal lengths than a camera without the feature.

What can I do to solve the camera shake? 

When using a telephoto lens, which can work as a wide-angle lens, avoiding camera shake is hard. Shaking can blur the image, which can ruin its quality.

As these lenses are heavier, handling them with your hands can lead to camera shakes.

So, you are much better at using a tripod. If you must hold it with your hand, then make sure the shutter speed is at or higher than the focal length.

How can a telephoto lens affect the background?

Professional photographers choose a telephoto lens because it brings the background closer to the subject.

A telephoto can compress backgrounds better than any other lens. No matter how blurry the background looks, a telephoto lens can bring it closer.


What are telephoto lenses used for? We believe we have answered this question well. You can now distinguish between zoom and telephoto lenses.

As several brands are producing these lenses, you only need to know the type you want. If you want the advantages of zoom and telephoto, choose a telephoto zoom lens.